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Featured Document - William Pare's Scrapbook

Manifesto of the Productive Classes

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The creator of the scrapbook was William Pare (1804-1873) a Birmingham tobacconist, who was one of the founders of the first Birmingham Cooperative Society. He left Birmingham in 1842 to become acting governor of Robert Owen’s community at Queenswood, Hampshire, from 1842-1844, and published numerous works on cooperation.

But the real star of the scrapbook is Robert Owen, of course. This is our bio info on Owen: Robert Owen was born in Newtown, Wales in 1771. He was apprenticed to a draper in Stamford, Northamptonshire at the age of 10, and continued his working education in London from the ages of 13 to 16. In 1787 Owen moved to Manchester, where he set up a small cotton-spinning establishment, and also produced spinning mules for the textile industry. Following this success, he became a manager for several large mills and factories in Manchester. In 1794 he formed the Chorlton Twist Company with several partners, and in the course of business met the Scots businessman David Dale. In 1799, Owen and his partners purchased Dale’s mills in New Lanark, and Owen married Dale’s daughter. At New Lanark, Owen began to act out his belief that individuals were formed by the effects of their environment by drastically improving the working conditions of the mill employees. This included preventing the employment of children and building schools and educational establishments. Owen set out his ideas for model communities in speeches and pamphlets, and attempted to spread his message by converting prominent members of British society. His detailed proposals were considered by Parliament in the framing of the Factories Act of 1819. Disillusioned with Britain, Owen purchased a settlement in Indiana in 1825, naming it New Harmony and attempting to create a society based upon his socialist ideas. Though several members of his family remained in America, the community had failed by 1828. Owen returned to England, and spent the remainder of his life and fortune helping various reform groups, most notably those attempting to form trade unions. He played a role in the establishment of the Grand National Consolidated Trade Union, 1834, and the Association of All Classes and All Nations, 1835. Owen died in 1858.